Though the official numbers have yet to be released, by many accounts NPE 2018 was the biggest and best ever. 5 full days (okay, 4 full days and a slow 5th day) of new machinery, technologies, and processes, as well as myriad learning and networking opportunities on the show floor and in the multiple technical conferences (ANTEC, Re|Focus) will tire out the most intrepid of plastics professionals.
From our perspective, we overcame a tough booth location with higher than expected traffic. With our HYTAC plug assist material displayed in many major thermoforming booths, and some fantastic PR coverage in the Plastics News show daily (thanks, Joe!), CMT can say that NPE 2018 accurately reflected the current buoyant mood of the global plastics industry.
While automation and Industry 4.0 were megatrend topics for the broader exhibition, within the thermoforming sector we saw some new machine introductions and some very impressive new process techniques. Bosch Sprang and Kiefel (Brueckner USA) displayed a new patent-pending "plug in plug" system for the production of polypropylene K-cups. This new tooling innovation allows for very precise control of wall thickness distribution, a critical topic in thermoforming, one that is central to our mission. GN introduced the 800 model to the North American market. The servo-driven, plug-assisted machine was equipped with a pick-and-place system that offered A/B stacking at over 30 cycles per minute. (Gravolab tool with HYTAC FLX plugs). Our friends at OMG received some nice press for their CPLA demonstration (also with FLX plugs) while WM, Illig and Gabler also ran machines producing trays and cups from APET and PP, showcasing the flexibility and high-output ranges available in thermoforming.
Most of the OEMs reported excellent booth traffic and high-quality leads. Every major thermoforming converter was at the show which indicates plenty of new projects are coming online, some of which will require new capital investment. That's good news for the whole supply chain, from resin producers to sheet extruders to toolmakers. It also poses challenges for companies who need to find good talent in engineering, design and operations. If you or your staff are looking for a great training program, join CMT and others at Penn College Hands-On Thermoforming Workshop next month in Williamsport, PA.
NPE wil be going back to Orlando in 2021. Hopefully by then the organizers will have installed some more moving walkways to reduce the time it takes to get from one hall to the other!